Chapter 1 of an as yet unnamed Lost Sun Adventure
This is a story about a Stelemian hero names Rexus of Acid Lake. Once a renowned pit fighter, he is now living out his ‘retirement’ as a mercenary.
Trigger warning: There is some swearing and violence.
“I’m going to make that ugly, bloody, swine pay. He should know better than to mess with the mightiest warrior this side of the roaring falls of Amana. I am, the one, the only, Rexus of Acid Lake!”
Rexus raised his hands over his head in triumph. The crowds cheered, women bared their bouncing breasts to him while the sacred lights shone down upon him. He was a Divine among heathens. A great champion, slayer of beast and men. He raised his head and roared like an animal at the chamber roof, the sharp stalagmites pointing down at him like spears.
“Keep your bloody voice down, ya stupid fat old fool.”
What? Who had spoken? Rexus shook his head to clear it. He heard snickering laughter behind him. Who would dare laugh at Rexus?
He spun to face the insolent fools, and almost fell over, the world swaying before his eyes. When he righted himself, he sought out those who would dare laugh at him.
A troupe of dirty-faced hard men in equally dirty but functional leather armor stood before him. They were armed with swords, one a bow and another a spear. The men still belched out their snickering laughter and the strangest thing of all was—they were looking at him.
No way. He reckoned no one would dare laugh at Rexus. I am the mightiest warrior of them all.
Then he ran his eyes over the blasted ruin behind the men, then he turned to look out over the black water below him, its surface reflecting the distant glow of the bacterial colonies on the cavern roof. The water stretched into the distance and disappeared into the darkness where no bacterial light shone.
Rexus’ bladder burned but he decided to ignore it. He checked his surroundings again. Where were the gibbering beasts, the baying war hounds, the savage bonemen who came to Stelemia to fight in the pit?
Better yet, where in Roryur’s name had he put his sword. Judgement he called it. For Judgement, it had brought.
“Ah, piss on ya, you fat old fool. Hurry up and do your business so we can get a move on.”
Rexus frowned. It was the same voice that had spoken a moment earlier.
“Oh, and keep your bloody voice down. We’re getten close to da bandit leader’s lair.” The same voice again.
Turning around to face the dirty men, Rexus saw that the one who had spoken was naught but a weasaly fellow with rat-like eyes that glittered in the torchlight. One of his front teeth was broken in half, his nose bent to one side, his cheeks pockmarked and scarred.
“What’ch looken at, eh? If ya stopped hitten the grog so much, you’d know a blind fish from a blind fish.”
“Eh?’ Rexus scratched his head, feeling his greasy hair.
“We’re on a bloody mission. Get some self control next time. Don’t drink ya boots off till we get back to the estate.”
“Eh?” Rexus said again. “I think I need to piss.”
The rat man rolled his eyes. “We’ve been waiting for ya to do it the last five minutes, you old fool. Get to it already, why don’t ya?”
“I think I will.” Rexus walked over to the edge of the cliff overlooking the dark water. They Abyssal Shelf, the edge of the world.
“Don’t forget to pull ya pants down, stupid,” the rat man said. The rest of the men snickered. “Useless as an ox turd, that’s what you are. A wasted, fat old fool.”
Rexus grunted as he pulled down his pants and a stream of steaming urine spilled down into the lake.
Then reality hit him like an armored boot to the gut.
There was nothing out there but blasted ruins, dark water, cold stone, distant city lights and six companions who cared nothing if he lived or died.
His life was the floating turd in the cesspit. No. Worse than that. His life was the cesspit. A place where others came to dump the vile discharge of their otherwise great lives.
Curse it all. There were no cheering crowds, no bouncing boobs, no clamoring gamblers betting on his name. They’d all up and left him for the next big name in the pits. He’d been tossed aside like some useless piece of trash. Even judgment had left him. She had said her goodbyes when he’d lost her in some card game in a seedy gambling den in Gravelbank.
Damn his bladder, would it hurry up and empty?
“Ya, done yet? Roryur’s sweat soiled undergarment’s, I’s never known a man to be filled with so much piss.” Rat man again.
Rexus snorted a gob of snot and spat it down into the lake. To have survived Dere-zor’s fighting pits to now be forced to listen to scum like this. Small men, fighting for small lords, with small plans and no respect for an esteemed warrior like Rexus.
But this was his job now. No longer did he stand nose-to-bloody-nose with twisted horrors dragged hissing and screaming from the Great Dark. Now he stood nose-to-nose with tankards or the backside of some pampered noble who was willing to hire him for a mere smitence of coin.
The weight of it all crushed him. Now he knew why he preferred to be drunk. Even the courtesans, including the ugly ones, looked down at him from their lofty heights. He was beneath even them. When one deemed him worthy enough to pay to sleep with them, they snatched his coin away as soon as he’d let loose his load and were out the door before he could so much as bask in the afterglow.
They knew ox dung when they saw it.
When he’d squeezed out the last drop of piss, he turned to face his companions. “You’d do well to remember who I am.”
There came a gaggle of snickers and hushed words. “You dare mock me?” Rexus started to reach for his sword but remembered he no longer owned it. I should’na gambled her away. I should’da quit when I was ahead.
Rat-man gestured toward Rexus’ crutch. “You mock us with that thing. I expected something as big as me forearm, not that shriveled, half-starved saggy thing.”
“Yea, bossman. I done heard the dark-skinned men had members that hung down to dere knees.” The man beside Rat-man slurred.
“Here now, what ya on about?” Rexus was flabbergasted until he felt a small gust of wind blow past his crutch. Bending forward to see over his gut, he caught his breath. Roryur, help him, he’d forgotten to pull up his pants!
Cheeks burning, he wrenched them up. Once he would not’eve cared if others saw his pleasure sword. But since returning from the Sludge Pit Brothel, the thing seemed to have wasted away like his muscles. The embarrassment reminded him just how long it had been since he’d sheathed his pleasure sword inside a willing pink scabbard.
As he opened his mouth to swear, he caught sight of movement in the ruins. His mouth closed and then went to open again, as something flew through the air. Before the words could escape his mouth, one of his companion’s heads came off. Blood sprayed everywhere as the headless corpse collapsed to the ground.
Rat-man spun around, only to catch a spear to the guts. He backed up several steps, then fell to his knees. The other three companions dived to the ground, raising their shields.
Rexus caught up with what was happening, and reckoned he better get to cover too. Diving for a broken pillar, he came down hard on one elbow and grazed it. Swearing, he reached for his tarnished sword.
The weapon was crude—nothing like Judgment—but it sure beat clobbering someone with his bare hands.
On his belly, he slid behind another toppled pillar and glanced around the edge. He could see no one, neither his companions or the enemy. Only corpses and a trickle of blood flowing into a crack in the rock.
“Crap.” He muttered. Now what?
A scream sounded to his left. It sounded like one of his companions, but he couldn’t be sure. I’m too bloody hungover for this.
Grasping his sword, he propped himself up against the pillar and stared out over the abyssal waters. There were worse places to die than this he reckoned. He’d fought the legendary Boreal Beast, slain Ithorn the merciless, gutted Haggard the Cruel. All mighty beasts brought to Stelemia from the Great Dark. All dead at his hands.
Who would be the one to end his life? A ragged bandit? A foul-smelling cutpurse?
He’d been sent out here with the six other hired thugs to find and exterminate a local bandit group. The job didn’t pay well, but it should have been a quick job. Go into the ruins of Abyssal Hall, smash some skulls together, and get out.
These days, nothing was easy.
So he waited for whoever had killed his companions to come and put him out of his misery. With luck, he end would be quick and painless.